Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It's All About The Storage - How Do You Organize All This Stuff?

    I'm a PackRat. There, I've admitted it. I probably have far more stuff squirreled away in my RV than I will ever have a need for. I can't help it, I just like to plan for too many eventualities. Hey, you never know, right? Well one of the biggest drawbacks with my RV is the lack of storage space. I've done pretty well "tetrising" the stuff I have into the limited space available. But that will only go so far. I am going to show you some photos of my sloppily re-packed cabinetry. The trick is to figure out a better way!
More efficient packing is my only recourse, since I can't add extra storage!

Over The Sink
Over The Stove
Let's start in the Kitchen/Galley. This is probably my most disorganized set of cabinets. Yours too? I have one over the sink and one over the range-top. Since stuff gets pulled out and replaced so often when  cooking, try and figure out which items get used the most and fit them on top and to the front. Especially since this set of cabinets has an intersecting corner that you can store items in. It's REALLY a P.I.T.A. to get them out though. I will be repacking this one as soon as the weather gets a bit better (during my annual RV spring cleaning) to see if I can't get a better handle on the space. Thankfully the rest of the cabinets and storage areas aren't nearly as bad. Try using small expanding refrigerator rods to stop rattles and the occasional item from smashing you on the head when opening the cabinets.

Pantry Close-Up
Next to the Kitchen/Galley is the wardrobe closet. Since I don't usually take many clothes that require hanging up, the odd button down dress shirt and slacks, plus a sports jacket, "just in case!" I opted to re-purpose most of this storage space as a pantry. I bought several drawer style interconnecting plastic storage bins and attached them to each-other. This gives you a lot of flexibility for food storage. All the spices and bottles are in them. Try and put the heaviest stuff at the bottom. Last year I had to reinforce the base of this closet since it was just a thin piece of paneling. You can read about how to do this HERE. This has worked really well! Under the main section of the closet is a drawer where I keep cleaning supplies and plastic bags. Under that is a shallow storage area where I keep an electric heater and some miscellaneous RV products (Enzyme chemicals mostly.)

Parts and Misc.
Parts and Tools
Remember "Greatest American Hero?"
Plastic Storage Bins Help!
Next are the cabinets that run down both sides of the main cabin. There are two on each side, right next to each other. They begin close to the Kitchen/galley and run all the way up to the front Driver/Passenger seats. Mostly I keep Tool and Spare parts (fuses, wire, nuts, bolts, screws,etc.) in the two larger ones. In the front left cabinet are DVDs and a Flashlight. the front right one houses more tools and parts with some plumbing and spare bulbs. Also the 12V power supplies for the various WiFi and Computer devices is here. Mainly since it's above where I sit to use them! In all of these cabinets, I have TRIED to separate all the bits and pieces into snugly fitting plastic storage bins with sealing lids. This stops most of the rattles and is supposed to make it easier to find stuff. At least these cabinets are "pass-through" so I can store longer items end to end.

Winter Storage, Pretty Empty
Auto Diagnostics and First Aid
In the back of the RV, above the bed are several additional cabinets. two the long way and one large one above the rear window. The two small ones carry outside clothing and the laundry bag. There is a large canister of "zip" ties. These are worth their weight in gold! I recently took a large extra VCR/DVD player out of the front left since I wasn't really using it at all.The back left one has miscellaneous video/audio gear in plastic tubs. There's also the OBD automotive diagnostic kit in here and a large first aid kit. Most of my outerwear will go here when I am ready to travel.

Above the Rear Window
Under Bed Drawers
The rearmost cabinet has blankets, extra soap and bathroom supplies.. All the way on the right, tucked behind the front NON-opening section of the cabinet is the back-up camera transmitter and power supply. You can see that install HERE.

Under the bed are 4 drawers. I keep most of my clothing as well as extra towels and blankets in them. The two toward the rear only open halfway! Behind them is a very large space that isn't really accessible. I will be modifying the drawer fronts into a hinged cabinet door so I can use the space more effectively. You should check if you have any drawers that open into open space that you can use more effectively.

Across from there is the vanity. A large "medicine cabinet" up top carries all the "normal" toiletries for a trip as well as a hairdryer (2 actually, a 12V and the other 120V)
There's also a cell phone charger in there! And a few face/hand towels. Under the sink is the compartment that holds the hot water heater. The tiny shelf has some toilet necessities and the switch for the hot water heater's add-on electric element.

"Basement" Exterior Storage
Not much storage here at all. You know it occurred to me, as I was writing this article, just how much storage I really have. I've always believed that I didn't have nearly enough. Since I don't have many (OK..I only have the one) "basement" storage areas, I was storage-poor. That's not really the case. For such a small RV (23'8" and 99" tall) I have quite a bit of storage. Yes, I do tend to pack pretty efficiently and most of the stuff I carry is small in size. I'd love to have more exterior storage for things I do not want to put inside, but I'm OK with that. As long as you can figure out the most efficient method of storage AND be able to remember where you put stuff, you'll be OK too.

I began with such good intentions when I decided to use the plastic bins. I WAS going to label each one (I even bought and electronic labeler!) to put the contents of each box on the outside. That's still on the "to-do" list. It's all about procrastination, "Why put off today what you can put off tomorrow..."

Solar Charging/Inverter Setup
Soft Storage Bin
Onward! Like many of you I have a couch that "jack-knifes" into a nice sized bed for company. Underneath there is a "large" amount of storage. I've used up about 1/3 of it with an inverter, solar charge controller, and support wiring/fuse panel for my Solar Charging System.
If you'd like more information on that, look at this six part(!) article that begins HERE.

Generator Enclosure

The left side of the under couch area is where my generator enclosure intrudes into the cabin, so not much will fit on top of that. It's a large area, but only about 2 inches high when the couch is closed. The center space is taken up by one of those Auto style trunk organizers. This one has Velcro on the bottom to hold it in place and two dividers to make three separate compartments. Lot's of stuff lives under here.

The "Bar"
Extra Storage Bin
Under the extendable dining table (About midway in the cabin across from the couch) lives a small bar/ storage area. I keep glasses and some decanters. They're not currently filled, but maybe one day... All my remote controls go here and I have a couple of small propane cylinders for my little grill as well. In front of that I keep a medium sized plastic storage bin with parts and tools for whatever upcoming projects are in the works. It fits snugly between the "step" up to the engine bay (this also hides my coaches electrical box) and the platform my swivel rocker is on.

Big, Flat Dash Means Extra Storage!
Passenger Footwell
Of course I store lots of stuff in the passenger seat footwell. Well at least I do when there isn't a passenger! Folding canvas seats, extra food and drink for a long trip. It's a large space, but since I often have a friend along it's not guaranteed I can use it. When parked, lot's of things can be stored both here and on the giant dashboard area. Usually that's the solar reflective and insulated reflectix window cover's. You can see the story about how to make insulated window covers HERE.

Satellite and DVD
Above the dash are two cabinets that house my entertainment system. The left is the satellite receiver and the DVD/Blu-Ray Player. There's also a spare true sine wave inverter there, just in case. On the right side is the VHS(!) VCR, the signal switcher, the digital media player, (This thing rocks! read about it HERE.) digital TV receiver and the signal converter. The signal converter lets me show the output of all these devices on a computer monitor with VGA in. You can read about using a Monitor as a TV HERE. There is really no extra room in either storage area at the moment. But that's OK, it all works!

Could I be more organized? Yes, absolutely. Do I have everything I need...and more? Probably. Will I leave something at home and have to rush into a nearby superstore since I didn't have it? Most assuredly! The trick is to plan ahead and if that doesn't work...Improvise!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


  1. Yup :), time to empty it all out and reprioritize and organize :).

    1. Matt,
      Yes...but can't I put it off till tomorrow? ;)

      Rich "The Wanderman"

    2. Matt,
      I was all set to re-organize this weekend...but it snowed again! Some Spring, huh?

      Rich "The Wanderman"

  2. We're fulltimers and so we carry a lot of stuff, most everything we own in our 34ft 5er. In the basement we keep most everything in small plastic containers which are stacked inside 5 large plastic containers. The small containers are all numbered 1-30 and the large containers are numbered C1-C5. I then created an Excel spread sheet with every item listed, which I can then sort by large container #, small container #, class of item, such as screw, or lubricant, or gloves and then also by exact description. I currently keep a printed list sorted by class of item first and then exact description within that class. It makes it super easy to find anything I have in the basement. I keep a separate list for items inside the RV and every drawer, cabinet, or opening inside the RV has a numbered Dymo label located inconspicuously inside the drawer, etc. which tells us from the list exactly where to find it. I also keep a third list for all the stuff we have stored in a basement room of our son's house in numbered boxes on numbered shelves. That way we can easily find items on our yearly trips home to visit family or we can tell our son exactly where to find an item we want sent to us on the road. Yes it took some effort to set it up originally but it was well worth it, as now we never have trouble finding anything we own. It does take some ongoing effort to keep updated as we sell, use up, rearrange or purchase new items.

    1. Fred,
      Wow, that is AMAZING! I wish I could be so organized and keep up with the lists. I'd likely be able to do it the first time, but then as things were used, lost, etc...I would get out of sync.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

  3. Dear Man, if you got rid of all the electronic entertainment stuff, you would free up a lot of space. For me, all the entertainment I need is just outside, the stunning beauty of nature. You just have to go there.

    1. Anon,
      When I am travelling and have to stop at a parking lot, roadside, campground....the view isn't so great. Besides, the entertainment compartments are very small.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

  4. We you said it alright but are you going to do anything about it? As for having stuff so you are always ready i understand, but i can not live like you, if i do not have all my stuff organized it gets thrown out, can not stand wasting time looking through piles of stuff, but good luck and have fun in your rv.

    1. Smokey,
      Believe it or not, at the beginning of each season everything is removed and reorganized. I have winnowed down what I take, both in quantity and finding smaller lighter alternatives for each item. The main spaces that are used everyday, things come out and then go back in. It's organized chaos....but I know where most things are!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

  5. If you know where everything is...
    then it's called an Organized Mess.

  6. Good luck...rule one pot for the propane stove, one pot for the microwave. Rule two...if you didn't use it last year, it doesn't go this year.Tell me when you come to PA and I will really organize your rig. We downsized from a 30 foot 5th-Big wheel to 21class c, no sweat, Use it or lose it!

    1. Anon,
      Hmmm...someone volunteering to organize my mess...I'm in..

      Just drove back from Chambersburg today.. Nasty storm both ways.

      Rich "The Wanderman"


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